Temps get low enough to bring snow to the valley -- to the delight of many

Downtown Sonora, Monday afternoon.
December7, 2009
(BART AH YOU/ Downtown Sonora, Monday afternoon. December7, 2009 Modesto Bee

Modesto woke up to a rare sight Monday: Snowflakes falling.

Candy Beard, who lives near Riverdale Park, said she started seeing the snow just after 7:30 a.m.

"The kids ran outside in their jammies," she said. "There was enough to make snowballs off the car so they could throw them at each other."

Trace amounts of snow fell throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley on Monday, but just how much and where varied widely, as comments on a story about the snow on showed:

It was coming down in big flakes at the Save Mart on Pelandale at around 5:40 a.m. Then sparsely around that area until 9ish, I believe. It's the once-a-decade snowstorm we get.

It was snowing on Ladd Road at about 6:15 this morning. Ahhhh, I miss the snow.

It was snowing in Ripon this morning, and when I got to work in Manteca it started snowing then.

It was sleeting when I left my house near Claus about 30 minutes ago, and we had some really fluffy snowflakes as I skirted downtown on B Street, and on 99 from Tuolumne to nearly Briggsmore. Everyone was still speeding on the freeway, of course.

It is really snowing around the block from Davis High School. ... I've lived here my whole life. Things like this don't happen very often. ... I am so excited. ... Let it snow. ... Let it snow.

It's snowing in Westley, Ceres and Patterson.

The Modesto Irrigation District reported about a half-inch of rain fell in Modesto on Monday as of 8 p.m. It was enough to make for slick roads.

Modesto police reported 11 traffic accidents, which is typical for a rainy day. None was serious.

Modesto police advised drivers to slow down and increase the distance between their car and the vehicle in front of them during this morning's commute, because the forecast calls for below-freezing nighttime lows.

"We need people to drive very cautiously," Modesto police Sgt. Brian Findlen said. "The potential for black ice is very real."

The chain gang

Reports of snow were as scattered as the accumulations in the valley, but people didn't have to travel far into the foothills to find snow- covered roads and chain controls.

The California Highway Patrol set up chain control at Highway 108-120 at La Grange Road, 22 miles east of Oakdale, from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

"It's been five or six years since we've had chain controls this low," said officer Michael Remmel with the CHP's Sonora office. "And definitely not in December. The last time it was a February snowstorm."

The chain control was at about 1,000 feet elevation. Chain controls usually are done in Jamestown, Remmel said, about 500 feet higher and 10 miles away.

The foothills were hit hard with power failures, school closures and dozens of minor traffic accidents.

Sonora police Sgt. Glenn Roberts said power failures were reported downtown and near Sonora High because of downed lines. He said officers "were extremely busy all day running from call to call and accident to accident."

The CHP in Sonora called in four off-duty officers, doubling the number of officers to handle accidents caused by motorists spinning out or driving too fast for conditions.

Roberts said about 4 inches of snow fell in Sonora.

The rain and snow from Monday are gone, but the valley and foothills are bracing for two chilly days and freezing nights.

The National Weather Serv-ice predicts nighttime lows in the valley will be in the mid- to upper 20s with daytime highs in the mid-40s.

The foothills can expect nighttime lows in the upper teens to low 20s with daytime highs in the mid- to upper 30s.

"This county is going to turn into an ice rink tonight," Remmel said about Tuolumne County.

Officials in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties are asking residents not to drive unless absolutely necessary. They advised people driving in the mountains to have chains, blankets, food, water and extra clothes in their cars.

Schools reopening

Roberts said schools were closed in Tuolumne County on Monday but will reopen today. However, many will start two hours later than usual, to give bus drivers better driving conditions.

Monday's storm was part of a larger system that walloped the West from Washington to Arizona. Snow was reported in Sacramento and the Bay Area. As much as a half-inch of snow fell around Danville, near the base of Mount Diablo.

The weather service said the next chance for rain and snow in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills will be Thursday, but the system will be warmer than Monday's, with the snow level at 3,000 feet.

Talk of the town

Barista Marlys Lundren said her customers at Heart Rock Cafe in Sonora were not surprised by the snow. What did surprise them was how low it fell.

"Everyone pretty much is talking about the snow," she said. "That it's pretty outside and that it snowed all the way down to the valley."

Bee online editor Brian Clark and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or 578-2316.

Scenes from Monday morning snow in Modesto

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